Tuesday, August 23, 2011

McSweeney's 38

Got the latest McSweeney's today.  Sort of bland.  Missing the usual introduction page that I joyously re-type here for easy reference.  Couple of authors in there that I recognize, most I don't.  I'll paste in the blurb from the website in lieu of anything more fun to read:
"Issue 38 is a real beauty, with stories pulled in from all over the world—a grand tour, in prose, of a dozen places you have perhaps neglected to visit, up to now! There is Ariel Dorfman in Paris, with one eye on Chile, Bisi Adjapon in Ghana, Chanan Tigay with the Israeli Arabs of the Desert Scouts Brigade, Nathaniel Rich exploring the Northeast Kingdom, Steven Millhauser somewhere far away, deep, deep in the woods, and new fiction from Dave Eggers—and more stories, besides, plus a comic and color photography and a cover that'll earn you admiring glances in whatever environment you're in."  (It goes on a bit, but I think you get the idea...)
Not too sure how impressed I am that Dave Eggers (who I will admit I tend to admire very much) put "Chapter One" of his as-yet-untitled (and presumably unfinished) "forthcoming novel" in the pages of his own literary magazine. Maybe he's done that before and I never noticed. Now I'm going to have to go back through the back issues and look.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

McSweeney's 37

The latest McSweeney's arrived today. At first I thought they were going with some sort of postmodern Battlestar Galactica theme. (The book has 2 corners cut off, similar to every book shown in the 2004-2009 re-imagined series, something that several online [thus questionably accurate, and I note ironically that I'm merely adding to the noise, here] sources state was done purposefully to indicate the corners they needed to cut in order to bring in the show on budget.) But, no, on closer inspection, it appears to be the foundation for an optical illusion.  Clever stuff.  I should have known they'd never be that geek-lit.

The book itself has got some authors I've very much enjoyed in the past:  Jonathan Franzen (who's latest, Freedom, sits high on my stack of books to read), Joyce Carol Oates, Joe Meno (if you haven't read his short novel, The Boy Detective Fails, you are definitely missing out on an odd treat).  Can't wait to read those.  It has 16 stories in all, including 5 (or 6, depending on how you count) stories from Kenya, one of which has a series of full-color illustrations on nearly each page, painted by the author.  (Those Kenyans!  Up to their usual gimmicks, I see.)

And now, because I do this, and have done so for a while, and once started I can't seem to stop, I will leave you with the lengthy narrative from the credits page which rebuts the modern standard and almost cliched theory that reading (and through a corollary: writing and publish) is dead.

© 2011 McSweeney's Quarterly Concern and the contributors, San Francisco, California. This has been a strange few years for the book industry. There have been many changes and realignments, and these changes have led countless commentators to predict that (a) reading is dead; (b) books are dead; (c) publishing is dead; (d) all printed matter is dead. Or that all of the above, if not already dead, will be dead very soon. ¶These are upsetting predictions, given they're based on assumptions and attitudes, and not data. Instead they point to the one reliable aspect of the literary world: that every decade, no matter the climate or the realities of the business, excitable people, many of them inside the industry themselves, will claim that reading is dead, that book are obsolete. It's a common but ill-informed line of thinking, and it leads to some bad decisions and bad outcomes. ¶Back in May of 2010, amidst some of the most dour prognostications about the state of the industry, we asked fifteen or so young researchers to look into the health of the book. Their findings provide proof that not only are books very much alive, but that reading is in exceptionally good shape—and that the book-publishing industry, while undergoing some significant changes, is, on the whole, in very good health. ¶Let's start with some bedrock data that disproves any statements that the industry is in freefall. According to Nielsen's BookScan—a sales-monitoring service widely regarded as representing 70 of 75 percent of trade sales—Americans bought 751,729,000 books in 2010. Excepting 2008 and 2009, when sales reached 757 million and 777 million, respectively, that's man millions more books sold than in any other year BookScan has recorded. (Five years earlier, in 2005, the total was just 650 million.) The decline from the all-time high of 2009 can't be overlooked, but it's worth remembering—in 2010, in the middle of a crippling recession, with unemployment in the double digits, people still bought more than 750 million books. (In all likelihood, quite a few more, considering BookScan's tendency to underestimate.) And that figure doesn't include e-book sales, which are no thought to make up as much as 9 percent of the overall book market—and which are growing by the year, representing at least a partial antidote to declining hard-copy sales. So: despite the prognostications, and the poor economic circumstances, total U.S. book sales in 2010 remained well above a billion books. ¶Other statistics—literacy, library circulation, overall book production—paint a similarly reassuring picture. Here are some examples, with each statistic using the latest available figures.
  • In 2008, there were more original book titles published in print that ever before: 289,729 different titles in the U.S. alone.
  • In 2007, there were more U.S. publishers than ever before: 74,240 (that's compared with 397 in 1925). This figure has been rising every year since the data began being collected.
  • In 2005, there were more published authors living in the U.S. than ever before: 185,275 (compared, for example, with eighty-two in 1850).
  • Adult literacy in the U.S. is also at an all-time high: 240,220,540 adults (98 percent of the adult population) were considered literate in 2010.
  • Library membership in the U.S. is at an all-time high: 208,904,000 Americans held library cards in 2009. (That's 68 percent of the population, the greatest number since the American Library Association began keeping track in 1990.)
  • Library circulation is at an all-time high: 2.28 billion library materials were circulated in 2008 (that's 7.7 circulations per capita) compared to 1.69 billion in 1999 (6.5 circulations per capita).
¶That's all good news. So much good news that we hope you'll feel armed with the numbers to combat the next lazy assumption that book, reading, novels, or literacy in general is dead. It isn't, by any available measure. ¶Still, though, there persists the idea that Reading Is Dead, and this assumption requires a corollary assumption, which is that there was some other, Golden Age of Reading and Writing Somewhere in the Past. For those who lament the death of reading, there is never a clear sense of just when this Golden Age was, but the idea is always there—that we are a fallen society, and that some earlier era was when books were read in greater volume and with greater depth and enthusiasm. ¶So let's consider this the Golden Age of Reading and Writing that every successive generation and age is measured against. When would such an era be? ¶Let's start with Dante. Sure 1321, when The Divine Comedy was published, was a time wherein the majority of citizens were walking around piazzas, reciting Ovid and Sophocles and talking about Dante's latest works? Not exactly. At that time, barely 10 percent of the Italian population could read. And given that Dante toiled at a time before the arrival of Gutenberg's press, books were incredibly scarce, and prohibitively expensive. The average Italian citizen—even if literate—had virtually no access to books. In the Italy of the fourteenth century, and indeed across Europe, reading for pleasure was an activity enjoyed by precious few. ¶So maybe it wasn't Dante's era that was the presumed Golden Age. How about Shakespeare's? People were coming to the Globe Theater to see his plays performed mere weeks after he'd written them! Surely this was the era that marked the pinnacle of literate society, from when our decline began. ¶But no. The statistics from his lifetime, 1564 to 1616, aren't much better than those from Italy during the time of Dante. In Shakespeare's era, the vast majority of the books and pamphlets that were printed, bought, and read were practical hexes and quasi-religious tracts. Shakespeare himself was not read widely, in part because by 1600, only 40 percent of the English population was literate (about 1,680,000 people). Books read and bought for pleasure were rare, and still expensive. As it had been for hundreds of years, the reading life was one for the very well-educated (and wealthy) few. For example, the first printing of John Milton's Paradise Lost, in 1667, was a mere 1,300 copies, and it took two years for them all to sell. So while those years were a time of some monumental writing, it was not our Golden Age of Reading. ¶Let's jump forward a century of so. Certainly the time of Jonathan Swift and William Blake was one of great and widespread literary awareness? Not exactly. In 1792, the most widely circulated newspaper in England, the Times, made it into the hands of a mere three thousand customers a day, about .04 percent of the population. By 1800, literacy in England had reached just 62 percent for a population of roughly 8 million (having risen only about 20 percent in the previous two hundred years). The most popular books were still religious texts, and most households were lucky to own a handful of books—and those were not likely literary in nature. ¶Back in the nascent United States, things were worse. At the time of the signing of the Constitution, in 1787, only about 60 percent of about 3 million American adults could read. And though Jefferson might have had a vast personal library, most citizens did not. Owning large numbers of books was still prohibitively expensive for most. ¶So let's set aside the lifetimes of Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Swift and Jefferson. Their eras, remember, were without systems of public education, and thus literacy was not equally accessible to all. Given the tiny percentages of people who could not only read, but had the time and money to read literature, their times cannot provide our Golden Age. ¶Would the nineteenth and twentieth centuries qualify? These were the years when literacy rates in America exploded. In 1870, about 80 percent of 38.5 million Americans were literate. BY 1940, almost 95 percent of 131 million citizens could read. ¶But today, as we noted, more than 240 million American adults (aged fourteen years and older), of about 245 million altogether, are literate. ¶In 1950, 5,285,000 Americans aged twenty-five and over had attained a bachelor's degree—about 6 percent of the twenty-five-and-older population. ¶In 2009, about 60 million Americans in that age group had one, making for a 29 percent share of the same population. So those more recent decades don't eclipse our own time, either. ¶To state the obvious, there are more people in this country and on the planet than ever before, and that means that there are more potential readers. More widespread and democratic access to education here and around the world means that there are more literate people—over 3 billion, by the last calculation. And with book production at an all-time high, it follows that more people are reading than at any time in human history. So that's good news.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Shameless

Okay, I know this is shameless (which, by the way, is also an excellent Showtime series that just wrapped the first season... trust me when I say that William H. Macy leaves his Jerry Lundegaard pigeon-hole for good... but I digress, shamelessly) but I just got a new toy, and I've been dying to try it out on Blogger.




You may have to indulge me for the next few days/weeks/months...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The $1900 Screw

Let me tell you the story of the $1900 screw. (Note to self: check phrasing on that before publishing.)

Screw-head, to be precise.* Sort of a funny story. Not funny in the "ha ha" sense. Mostly funny in the "shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque" sense.

A couple months ago, I renewed the registration on both of our cars. You know how that goes. Proof of insurance. Proof of inspection (in some states, including ours.) Send in your check. Once you've done that, you get a new sticker to put on the license plate with one more year incremented. I'm sure it's mostly the same in every state.**

We've got license plate holders that wrap around the plates themselves (and proudly display the name of the dealership where we bought the cars so many years ago, which begs a whole new question), and in order to properly apply these stickers, you've really got to take off those holders. They cover the edges of the sticker ever so slightly. But no problem; I do this every year.

This year, however, K's car was in a bad mood the day I went to apply her new sticker. One of the license plate screws wouldn't come off. I hosed it down with WD-40 and tried again: nothing. So, since the screw head had a hex shape to it, I got out my socket wrench and gave it a good hard tug.

And tore the head right off. Damn. There wasn't enough of the screw itself sticking out to grab hold of and try to twist out (even if it had been loose, which it definitely wasn't). And when I took apart the back panel of her car (she's got an SUV so it's screwed into the back door) it wasn't accessible from that side, either.

Temporarily defeated, I put the sticker on the plate and the plate (and holder) back on her car, held on by the one screw only. Every time we shut the back door, it rattled. Every time we hit a decent bump in the road, it rattled. I figured it was a matter of time before that one screw came loose and the whole thing just fell off.

So finally last month when we called the dealer and asked if they could fix it (figuring that someone, somewhere, much have special tools for removing stubborn, headless screws, if the "right tool for every job" motto is accurate).

"Sure," they said. "Fifty bucks."

Fifty? Bend me over, why don't you. But, as the man says, what're you gonna do? Needed to be done. So we dropped her car off in the morning, asked if they could do an oil change at the same time, and gave them all day to do those two things. They said it would be ready by the end of the day.

We got there at 5:45 that night (they close at 6:00) and noticed, sort of a peculiar thing, that they were just pulling her car into the garage as we got there. (Yeah, they had all day and didn't start until the last 15 minutes.) Could be taken as a bad sign, but we remained optimistic. We waited. To well-past closing time. Eventually, our sales/service guy came out and said it was finished, but they couldn't fix the screw. They didn't have the right tools to get it out and suggested we take it to a body shop. Great. Trip wasted. But all things being equal, it could have been worse...

Yeah. Things get worse.

When they pulled the car around, they confessed that they hit one of the yellow concrete pylons in the garage. Hit it with our car. Or, to be precise, as this doofus got out to show us the damage, he claimed that the yellow post "jumped out and hit him as he was pulling out." Sure. Way to put a positive spin on it. I guess it wasn't your fault at all.

To their credit, they said they would, of course, fix the damage for free down at a body shop they use. It wasn't much more than a yellow scrape down one of the back quarter panels. And we asked if they would get us a quote for some other minor repair work that we needed at the same time. (Both K and I have put some small dents and scratches into the front and back of her car over the years. I shan't elaborate.) And we insisted that they throw in the screw for free which was the entire reason we came there in the first place.

All told, our end of the bill was $1900 (yeah, "minor" repairs). They did end up charging us for the screw, which, yes, got fixed. It took almost two weeks, but they gave us a loaner car (similar to K's SUV) for the duration, so that was nice. And her car is back to pristine condition once again. Except for the seatbelt inside which B.B. has nearly chewed through.

So there you go. The story of the $1900 screw.

I'm going to keep this thing as a reminder. Of what, I'm not sure, but the next time I can't get a screw out, I'm not going to apply as much torque as humanely possible, that's for damn sure.



* Makes me think of this scene in Army of Darkness, which, if you've seen it, you'll understand why and if you haven't you'll wonder what in the world is going on in this 2 minute clip.




** Back in Missouri, those stickers were amazingly easy to peel off, so much so that theft was a problem, so we were instructed to apply the sticker then take a razor blade and cross through them so if anyone did try to peel them off, all they'd get was pieces. Not a bad strategy. Out here in North Carolina, these things are damn near impossible to peel off. I suspect they use Gorilla Glue as adhesive.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Organ Donors

K and I were out to dinner and chatting about being organ donors (for some reason).  She's against it.  (Don't ask.  She has her reasons.)  I'm for it.  I mean, why not?  I'm dead.  What possible use do I have for my organs?

She conceded her eyes.  Literally.  "I guess I'd donate my eyes," she said, finally.

"So wait," I said, thinking it through, "You're O-Negative, right?  That's the universal donor, isn't it?"

"Yeah."

This will prove how much/little I know about organ donors.  Is it all down to blood type?  Or are there other methods of determining compatibility?  I have no clue.  Bear with me, here.

"So if you and I were in an accident, together, I mean a bad one, and you were killed instantly but I was left alive, barely alive, and let's say all I needed was a kidney, you wouldn't be able to give me one of yours because you're not a registered organ donor."

To give her credit, she considered that for about a second before she said, "You'd want to live without me?"

Touché.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Quote of the Day - Star Wars Edition

"Don't be a Darth Maul."

- K to me. I don't know what prompted it, exactly. We were making the bed together before I went off to work, and I was teasing her a little, or something. Doesn't matter. Point is, how cool is it that she even knew who that was? I, of course, called her on it, and said, "Do you even know who Darth Maul is?" To which she replied, "Of course I do. He's the guy with the double light saber." Whoa. Even cooler. Right there.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What If, My Muse

So here it is February already, well over a month into the year, 6/52-nds gone (unless my deficiency at fractions has misled me), and my resolution to write 11 short stories this year is faring poorly. Which is not to say that I haven't been writing at all, per se, or doing things related to writing. I certainly have been thinking about it an awful lot. I've tarted up my sister site where I've got a couple short stories posted, and I added a few more. Sure, all of them were written back in my creative writing hey days in the 90's, but I may have tweaked a word choice or two before I clicked "publish" and moved on.

I've also pulled out all of my old journals where I used to lazily jot down story ideas and have gone through them with (the literary equivalent of) a fine-toothed comb to see if anything there is worth writing. And sure, there are a few possibilities.

I started writing one such story in January, an idea I had years ago, essentially a horribly complicated Möbius Strip of interwoven characters and plots which sounds like it will be a good one but probably not the best story to start with. A page into it and I gave up. I felt like trying to lift 300 pounds of free weights after a decade away from the gym. Too much for these poor, tired, neglected muscles.

I've got another story I want to jump into, but it needs some work before I can start. I used to think of story ideas like uncut diamonds (a poor metaphor, but bear with me). I'd come up with something and need to turn it around in my head over and over, whittle away at it to see if there was a workable gem underneath, sometimes shifting characters about, adding plot elements, taking them away, turning the whole thing on its head and looking at it from a different angle, again and again. Sometimes, most times in fact, after all of that thinking, there wasn't anything left. I'd whittled it down to nothing. And then I'd move on to another idea. And believe me, back in the day, the ideas were aplenty.

Sadly, that's not the case anymore. I've realized something, as I've been thinking about writing these 11 short stories: I've lost the ability to actively "What If."

For those of you not familiar with the term, this is the ability to look at a situation—could be anything from a glimpse at a stranger in a shopping mall, a scene in a movie, maybe even a random memory just passing through your head—pause it in time and think: "what if something different happens now?" This is how stories are born. At least, that's how they get started in my head. I used to do this constantly, so often that I didn't bother writing most of them down because I took for granted that I would have an inexhaustible supply. Ideas were born from the most minute things all the time.

I think part of it had to do with the general distractedness of youth. Time spent in front of TV and movies where you're inundated with changing images every 3.5 seconds leads to a natural state of attention deficiency. That combined with a natural propensity for mental wandering led me to see most things around me as series of "What If's." I allowed (in fact, encouraged) my mind to wander freely. If I saw a couple arguing in a parking lot I would immediately construct a scenario explaining how they ended up there or where they would end up next. If I saw an old building, I would think of what it was like back when it was new and who might have lived there. Or even who was living there now, and why. I wrote an entire short story based on the fact that one day, in an elevator at school, I noticed that the colors behind the buttons had changed. (Someone had replaced the light orange bulbs with a slightly darker orange.) All sorts of scenarios ran through my head on any given day. Whenever I needed a new "rough diamond" to work with, I just grabbed the next one that came by. Invariably my mind would catch on a detail somewhere and simply venture down a different path that always started with "What If?"

And dammit if I'm just not doing that as much these days. I was aware of this decline in my creative process as I started on this "11-stories-in-1-year" resolution. My "What If's" lately (over the past decade) have been fewer and farther between. And believe me, I've been writing them down. I don't take them for granted any more. Now that I need them again for this little project, I find myself struggling. Can I recover the automatic mental divergences that I used to take for granted?

So, here I am with a year 6/52-nds gone and a big fat ZERO stories written so far. I chose the number 11 mostly because I knew that November would be a month off for me as I intend to do NaNoWriMo again and work on a novel which leaves 11 months left to write stories. If you assume one per month (which is, itself, quite aggressive considering that at my peak I was churning out maybe 6 a year) then I'm already behind. Inauspicious beginnings.

Then you have my inclination towards procrastination. Case in point: I had a couple hours set aside to write on this lovely Sunday afternoon, all of the weekend chores done, and K and I quietly working in our respective offices. I've got the above mentioned story that I want to work on fresh in my mind. The laptop is charged. Nothing to stop me.

And instead I write this long blathering missive whining about the loss of my creativity.

Figures.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Digress Upwards

I sent out an email yesterday with these words in it: "I've got a stack of work I need to catch up on."

Odd sentence there, especially coming from someone who (infrequently and foolishly) prides himself on using proper English. Are those really two prepositions at the end of that sentence?

The alternative just doesn't sounds right. "I've got a a stack of work on which and upwards with I need to catch." (Or something to that effect.)

Who talks like that? Modern Grammarians have petitioned to throw out that antiquated rule, and I, for one, am in favor of it. Sloppy writing can lead to the occasional trailing preposition, and let's avoid those for sure, but sometimes the alternative can sound even worse.

Reminds me of this quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill (I can't be bothered to look it up) and probably, at best, it's been bastardized over the years: "Ending a sentence in a preposition is something up with which I shall not put." Well put.

Further reminds me of an old English Grammar joke, popular in the obscure circles I traveled in during my college days. "A prospective student visiting Harvard stops a professor in the quad and asks, 'Can you tell me where the Registrar's office is at?' The professor says in his stuffiest voice, 'This is Harvard, young man, where we do not end our sentences in prepositions.' The young man thinks for a second then rephrases, 'Can you tell me where the Registrar's office is, asshole?'"

Sunday, January 09, 2011

McSweeney's 36

Those lovable diehards at McSweeney's have done it again.  They've sent me yet another quarterly gem almost as challenging to fit on my bookshelf (though not quite as challenging as last year's Sunday newspaper format) as it is fun to explore and read.  This is—by all outward appearances—a square cardboard box with a human head drawn on all six sides (including the severed bit of neck on the bottom) that opens up to reveal 11 different "pieces" inside, including:
  • An unfinished novella (?) by Michael Chabon
  • A play about a Muslim-American family (ironically [?] called The Domestic Crusaders)
  • A short screen-play for a new Mike Meyers/Dana Carvey movie, wrapped in a brown envelope with a cover letter inside introducing the piece to prospective movie producers
  • A series of postcards depicting one larger piece of artwork
  • The longest fortune cookie "slip" I've ever seen, rolled and rubber-banded into a tight cylinder
  • The first chapter of Adam Levin's (so far) great debut novel The Instructions which I've started reading but got pushed aside because I'm currently tackling another great/large novel (oh, I haven't mentioned in here that I'm currently reading DFW's Infinite Jest... well, there you go, maybe I'll expound on that another time)
  • Among other things also thrilling to discover in this box/head.
Never sure exactly how to proceed with any McSweeney's offering, this one sort of demands that you keep the box close-by and, like a magician's hat, simply put your hand in from time to time to see what you pull out.  $26 at your local independent bookstore (or about $15 at Amazon—I note with amusement the usual "Tell the publisher I’d like to read this book on a Kindle" link below the image... as if) is a good deal for this level of ingenuity.  Not trying to peddle someone else's wares on you.  Just saying.

Finally, if you'd like to make your own box head, print out the below and fold along the lines (scissors and tape not included).


Now, as usual, here's the blurb from the credits page, always fun to read:
I'd love nothing more than a chance to crack your forehead open along a tidy seam and give the contents of your mind a nice gore-free sift. This McSweeney's issue was conceived as an approximation of what that experience might feel like for the sifter (without, admittedly, any regard at all for the feelings or the rights of our mustachioed fantasy siftee). What would your head look like inside? Mine, I think, would look like a disorganized yellow filing cabinet. There's some fun stuff in there; some serious stuff; some fragments. There's an unexplainable but functional partial order to things. (I like my indefensible mind fine, it works for me, and so forth.) These kinds of thoughts—p1us the old TV commercial for Reach toothbrushes starring the cartoon man with the "Hip-top head," plus the gruesome old monster-faced Madballs toys—are what sparked issue 36.

It seemed like a good idea to include at least one abandoned or unfinished text in the issue. Michael Chabon answered the call, and the result—the enclosed Fountain City mini-book—laughably outclasses our original big dream of plundering someones hard drive for a disused Word document.

Not knowing about the box, Jack Pendarvis sent us Fancy Times—a suite of adventure stories that are written like crass 1961 abridgments of pulpy, meandering WWI-era yarns. We selected one of our many favorites, and Michael Kupperman gamely fleshed it out with the right kind of art. The result is tucked away here in the way that the 114 things I've bought on eBay since 1999 are tucked away in perfect places.

Wajahat Ali's play and Sophia Cara Frydman's illustrated story are the kind of writing projects that could be enjoyed by countless readers—but how do you get them into people's hands? How do you publish a brilliant play, or a handwritten mini-story with seven drawings, so that a reader will think to seek it out, so that they might be attracted to it, so that they might read it? A human-head box (drawn by the amazing Matt Furie) is an ideal delivery system for work like this, we hope.

We at McSweeney's continue to love mail, and the institution of mail, and all the surprises it can bring. Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington's script for an imaginary Mike Myers/Dana Carvey movie hit our inbox less than a week before presstime, and it instantly felt essential. Ian Huebert's "installment postcards" revive a delightful idea originated by the postcard publisher Franz Huld in 1905: send an artwork through the mail, one teasing piece at a time, until the full image is finally revealed to the recipient.

We've left some space in the box so that you can introduce your own ideas into it, Inception-style. If you email us a picture of yourself holding your box in your home, we'll mail you something extra to put in the box. What can you fit into it?

If a man were to approach me at my desk right now and tell me he could get me into your head for fifteen minutes for $200 without you knowing about it, I'd run to the ATM. If the price were $500, I'd put it on my credit card. I would pay no more than $600. In that spirit, I hope you agree that twenty-six dollars was a steal of a price for McSweeney’s 36, which you can presumably keep now until you're dead.

—Brian McMullen, managing editor & art director, McSweeney's

© 2010 McSweeney's Quarterly Concern and the contributors, San Francisco, California.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Has this ever happened to you?

Sometimes I find myself deep in thought, my mind wandering literally in a different time and in a different world, all sense of reality lost, and I find that I'm holding my body completely and totally still.  For a split second I feel perfectly content.  Nothing is wrong in the world.  Everything... everything is good.  But the second passes quickly, for I suddenly realize I've stopped breathing.

(May 22, 1995)